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President Joe Biden Visits Utah, Discusses Impact of PACT Act

The PACT Act, which was signed by Biden last year, expands healthcare for veterans with lasting health complications from toxic exposures.
Caelan Roberts
President Joe Biden delievers a speech on the PACT Act at the George E. Wahlen Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Salt Lake City on Aug. 10, 2023. (Photo by Caelan Roberts | The Daily Utah Chronicle)


President Joe Biden concluded his tour of the western United States on Thursday with his visit to Utah. He primarily spoke about the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act at the George E. Wahlen Department of Veterans Affairs medical center near the University of Utah campus. It’s been exactly a year since Biden signed the act into law.

Gov. Spencer Cox was in attendance, as well as Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall, Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson and several state legislators to watch the president deliver his remarks. 

The PACT Act

The PACT Act was signed by Biden in August 2022. It expands healthcare for veterans with lasting health complications from toxic exposures.

“We have many obligations as a nation,” Biden said in his remarks. “But we only have one truly sacred obligation, and that’s to equip those we send into harm’s way and care for them and their families when they come home.”

Exposure to toxic burn pits increases veterans’ likelihood of developing cancer. Biden said his son, Beau, lived “about 400 yards” from one of these pits during his time serving in Iraq. Beau died of brain cancer in 2015.

“So it’s personal for my family, but it’s also personal for so many of you,” Biden said.

In addition to the PACT Act, Biden spoke of the need for increased support for veterans in other areas — notably, mental health.

“There’s no difference between having a mental health problem and breaking your arm or your leg,” he said. “… We have to make sure people know there’s nothing to be ashamed of in seeking that help.”

President Joe Biden after his speech at the George E. Wahlen Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Salt Lake City on Aug. 10, 2023. (Photo by Caelan Roberts | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

A Mixed Welcome

The visit marks Biden’s first time in Utah since being elected in November 2020, and continued despite online threats made against him.

Yesterday, FBI agents shot Craig Robertson, a Provo resident, after agents attempted to serve a search warrant for his arrest. Robertson had threatened to kill the president on several social media platforms. 

Robertson had been surveilled by the FBI since March because of social media threats to kill New York District Attorney Alvin Bragg — the DA who conducted a criminal investigation into former President Donald Trump. 


According to White House officials, Biden was briefed on the situation yesterday. 

Some people still showed up to greet the president when Air Force One landed yesterday evening. A small crowd of supporters watched the motorcade pass through. 

Bipartisan Discussions

In a press conference following Biden’s speech, Gov. Cox said he was able to speak with Biden about several issues including the national monument designation, the Great Salt Lake and the CHIPS Act. Cox said he was unsure why there was a question of whether he would greet the president or not, arguing America needs to get back to a place of civil disagreement. 

“I think we need to get back to that — we can disagree in the right ways in the right places, so that we welcome each other and we try to find common ground and work together,” he said. 

Utah Senators Mike Lee and Mitt Romney were not in attendance for Biden’s speech. They voted against the PACT Act when it was originally passed.

In the past, Utah senators have traditionally greeted or met with a visiting president. Sens. Orrin Hatch and Lee welcomed former President Barack Obama when he visited in 2015. 

Cox said he had not been briefed on the situation with the FBI but that “toxic disagreement” needs to stop. 

“I’m really worried about the future of our country,” he said. “… It’s okay to be passionate about our disagreement. It’s not okay to threaten to kill our elected leaders. If you believe in the Constitution, if you believe in the history of this great nation then, you should believe in finding ways to work together.”

Biden ended his remarks by thanking Democrats, Republicans and Independents for helping get the bipartisan PACT Act signed into law. Like Cox, he stressed the importance of cooperation between political parties.

“We are the United States of America,” he said. “There’s nothing — nothing beyond our capacity when we decide to work together to get it done. … God bless you all; let’s continue to work together, and God save our veterans.”


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About the Contributors
Caelan Roberts, News Editor
Cael is double majoring in English and journalism which gives him a chance to fully explore his passion of writing. He loves working at the Chronicle and is excited for the opportunity to edit on the news desk and work with leadership and writers.
Vanessa Hudson, Assistant News Editor
Vanessa is from Grand Junction, Colorado. She's a junior majoring in communication with an emphasis in journalism and minoring in modern dance and political science. She is passionate about what she reports on, and she usually winds up writing about local politics and issues. When Vanessa isn't writing, you can find her trying out some new choreography, listening to public radio or watching Marvel and Star Wars movies.

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